What is it good for?
It’s good for business.”
North Sea Bubble ― Billy Bragg
The Brisbane Exhibition Centre is about to play host to a weapons expo. Land Forces over October 4-6 is the largest event of its kind in the region. It is not about defence, but the business of war.
The fact that the Queensland Labor government is a major sponsor demonstrates how the state has been captured by the military-industrial complex.
State and federal governments give billions of dollars in contracts to large defence corporations. They also assist small and medium enterprises to pivot to making parts for these death machines.
The weapons industry has benefitted from at least $37 billion a year in funding since 2018, with profits flowing to the defence export sector.
Australia pours more than $100 million a day into so-called “defence” and related sectors. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in 2018 put the country on a pathway to becoming one of the top 10 weapons exporting countries, within 10 years.
Making weapons a larger part of Australia’s exports would put it in a position where the economy relies on perpetuating armed conflict to generate demand.
Successive governments have pursued this vision: while in opposition, Labor pledged to “match the Liberals” to ensure defence spending never falls below 2% of gross domestic product.
Apart from the moral question about whether Australia should be prioritising making weapons, it is an inefficient job-creation strategy because it is so capital intensive.
Defence contracts are overwhelmingly awarded to large firms, none of which are Australian-owned, meaning that public funds go offshore.
This is not to downplay the lives lost, homes destroyed, refugees created and trauma and displacement generated by such weapons manufacturing.
Land Forces will highlight how war starts with weapons corporations: Raytheon, BAE systems, Boeing and Lockheed Martin are talking up how the war in Ukraine is benefitting shareholders and announcing record profits.
These and other companies attending Land Forces, such as Rheinmetall and its Australian partner NIOA, are poised to benefit from the government’s Defence Export Strategy.
They will be speed-dating their way around an expo that will also include Australian Defence Force representatives, defence ministers and other armed forces and trade delegations.
Last year, 12,766 industry, government and defence people from more than 70 nations gathered at Austrade and the Australian Defence Export Office (ADEO), to build the arms business and trade.
The wining and dining at these gatherings sets in motion chains of events that culminate in people losing their lives to state-sponsored violence.
Meanjin Peace Action will be peacefully protesting the military-industrial complex, saying: “War crimes start here.” The key message of Disrupt Land Forces, a seven-day resistance festival organised by a coalition of peace activists, is the call for a reallocation of resources from war profiteering to the climate crisis, including supporting people displaced by natural disasters.
The climate disaster is the “new normal” and given the number of climate refugees in all countries and continents, surely it is time to call for Earth care not warfare?
We do not agree with the government spending half a billion dollars on 10 weaponised vehicles from Rheinmetall when that sum could re-home 1000 flood-affected families in New South Wales.
We also echo the Karrinjarla Muwajarri campaign’s call to disarm police.
NIOA, a key sponsor of Land Forces, provides the vast majority of bullets to police forces here. NIOA has profited from the Northern Territory intervention and the militarisation of state-based police forces, including in Victoria.
Last year’s inaugural Disrupt Land Forces drew about 100 people from across the continent. This festival of resistance is aiming to be bigger, to highlight the breadth of community solidarity against militarism and war for profit.